Colombia’s president wants rebels to set deadline for peace
President Juan Manual Santos delivered a sharp rebuke to Colombia’s largest rebel group Friday, calling on its leaders to set a deadline to reach a peace deal following this week’s slaughter of 11 soldiers while they were sleeping.
Santos didn’t propose any cutoff date to conclude peace talks taking place the last two years in Cuba between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. But he warned the guerrillas that the country’s patience is wearing thin
“Don’t be deaf to us Colombians who are clamoring that the time to end the war has come,” he said in remarks at a reception for visiting South Korean President Park Geun-hye. “Time limits to negotiations need to be put in place,” he added.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of outraged Colombians poured into the streets of several cities to join funeral processions for the 11 soldiers, the majority from poor backgrounds, who were killed Tuesday during a midnight FARC attack in a rural hamlet in southwestern Colombia.
Santos, accompanied by members of his Cabinet, served as a pallbearer for one of the fallen soldiers at a memorial service in Bogota, the victim’s casket draped in the Colombian flag.
The attack came as a shock to normally battle-hardened Colombians because it occurred after months of steady progress in negotiations that saw the FARC declare a unilateral cease- fire and the government respond with a suspension of air raids on rebel camps.
Following the attack, Santos ordered the air strikes to resume. But conservative critics, and some members of the military, want him to go even further.
While Santos said he shares Colombians’ outrage over the attack, he gave no indication he is considering ending talks, saying he was elected to pursue peace not perpetuate war.
“The easiest decision today is to say war, war and more war,” said Santos, who as defense min- ister in the previous government of President Alvaro Uribe was responsible for delivering the rebels some of the biggest setbacks. “But I was elected by Colombians to make peace and that is my mandate.”
US Condemns ‘brutal’ FARC
Attack in Colombia
The United States branded a FARC attack that killed 11 Colombian soldiers “brutal” Friday and accused the Marxist guerrillas of violating their unilateral cease- fire.
Marie Harf, acting State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement: “We reaffirm our continuing support to the government of Colombia in its efforts to end the nation’s 50 year conflict.
“We condemn the brutal attack in Cauca orchestrated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). “The offensive was in direct violation of the unilateral cease- fire they committed to last December.”
“It is our sincere hope that negotiators reach an accord soon to bring peace to Harf added.
(Above) A Colombian soldier, victim of a landmine, stands next to flowers outside a military base in Medellin, Antioquia departement, Colombia on Friday, April 17 as he pays tribute to eleven soldiers killed last Wednesday in Cauca department, in an attack by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas. (Right) Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos speaks to the media as South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye listens during her welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace in Bogota, Colombia on Friday.